It took 80 years for Famous to roll out this limited edition anniversary cigar from Romeo y Julieta. The Cigar Advisor Review Panel took this soft box-pressed beauty for a test drive, and have no shortage of opinions on this very special release…
Undercrown Shade Cigar Review: Video
Liga Undercrown Shade Cigar Review: Cigar Advisor Review Panel
The Cigar Advisor video review panel is back – and today, we’re putting Drew Estate’s newest offering to the test in this Undercrown Shade cigar review. Formulated by Drew Estate’s Master Blender Willy Herrera, this marks the first cigar to be released during his tenure that isn’t part of a line with the Herrera name on it. Instead, he has taken Undercrown – and instant Liga classic – and retooled the blend to produce a line extension that smokes milder and more refined than the original. As we all know the story behind Undercrown’s creation (made by the rollers for their personal consumption), what’s interesting to know about the Undercrown Shade is that Willy went back to work with the same rollers who were responsible for the original recipe to create this new version. Undercrown Shade is available in 25-count boxes, and by the time the full extent of the line hits shelves, there will be 6 vitolas in all. Our Undercrown Shade cigar review is of the 6″ x 52 Gran Toro size, the first to hit the market – watch the review panel for the details and our impressions of the smoke, and our individual tasting notes are below. As always, remember that we don’t do scores at Cigar Advisor – we’re just going to tell you what qualities we’ve found within the cigar, and whether we think you’ll like it…depending on what kind of cigar is right for you. Watch it now!
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: 6″ x 52
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade
Filler: Dominican Criollo ’98 / Nicaraguan Corojo & Criollo
Presentation: Boxes of 25 / 5-packs / Singles
Group Summary of this Cigar’s Qualities & Components:
Construction and Overall Appearance: Excellent
Pre-light flavor: Woody with some grassiness
Toasting & Light: Excellent
Base flavors: Cedar, oak, pepper, and some citrusy notes
Retrohale: Very peppery
Aroma: Mello and fragrant
Burn / Ash Quality: Excellent
Balance of flavors: Excellent
Tommy Zman’s Tasting Notes
With Willy Herrera placing an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade leaf around Undercrown innards, the man has instantly created a game changer. Where the original Undercrown is a bit more raw and straight-on balls to the wall, the Shade is without question more refined and definitely more complex.
Again, where the Undercrown is very full bodied and a stronger smoke, the silky Connecticut wrapper on the Shade tones things down a bit while delivering a smooth and creamy component. I tasted heavy notes of cedar with hints of vanilla, oak and citrus. The construction is just flawless as a ton of thick, white creamy smoke billows upon every draw you take.
I really liked this cigar a lot from the very first puff and I’m actually a bit hooked on them lately. It’s not a mild cigar by any means, and make no mistake, it is loaded with full flavor. I think this cigar might actually attract new smokers to the Drew Estate brand who might have been intimidated by the strength of the original Liga line and the herbal infusion of the Acid cigar brand line.
Jonathan Detore‘s Tasting Notes
Overall, it’s an incredible cigar. A lot of people were turned off when DE announced they were selling to Swisher International, thinking the Undercrown would become a 99 cent cigarillo. But this proves that Swisher wants the premium cigar market to expand underneath them, and they’re allowing Drew Estate to go at the industry with everything it’s got. We can only expect more incredible cigars being produced from this historic brand like never before.
The flavor of the cigar changes from the first half to the second half. The light citrus flavor turns into a hearty buttery/creamy sensation with spice and woody notes. It’s great for a mild bodied smoker looking to break into a medium-full bodied cigar with a silky smooth Connecticut wrapper. They get what they’re used to up front, while being taken into the next higher level gradually and gently. If you are a mild bodied smoker, this is a cigar you want to smoke slowly in order to get accustomed to it. If you’re a full bodied smoker, you’ll love this stick and all the flavors it holds while still getting some of the strength you’re used to. Great with a bigger breakfast and morning cup of coffee or as a night cap a few hours after a big dinner to share with friends.
Consistency is huge for me, and this delivers. The flavor is also on point, and is a true treat to smoke, especially as Drew Estate expands the Undercrown line to cater towards more mild bodied smokers. Typically the Liga line is all full bodied, but this is a good entrance into that line. The construction, the complexity, etc. – I can go on all day about this one. It’s really that good.
In the video version of the Undercrown Shade cigar review, we mentioned letting the cigar rest a while in-between puffs to get the full flavor, but for me, towards the end, when I let the cigar rest it had a habit of going out due to the build-up of oils in the cigar; so if you tend to do this, a relight or two may be in your future. Once you hit the halfway mark, pay more attention to it to make sure you avoid this. As I’m writing this review I’m on my third relight. The flavor isn’t affected if you relight right away, but it’s just a nuisance more than anything.
Overall, this is a hell of a cigar. I can honestly recommend the Gran Toro to anyone who really loves cigars and wants to experience real full flavor. With a medium-full body and stunning construction and packaging (including the wrapper), this is a real cigar smoker’s cigar. I only had one negative with this cigar, and it’s not even a big one. I don’t give numeric reviews because I find them to be overly pretentious, but I don’t think this will receive one negative review. I just can’t see it getting a bad mark from anyone in the industry.
Gary Korb‘s Tasting Notes
An impressive cigar, considering the fellow who blended it, Willy Herrera, has, admittedly, never made a cigar with a Connecticut wrapper until now. Beyond the beautiful blonde wrapper and superb construction, I was expecting this cigar to be much sweeter than it was. A look at the filler tobaccos should have sent a signal that this was not going to be your typical mild to medium Connecticut cigar.
The Gran Toro started-off very peppery for me. Although it rounded-out somewhat after the first inch, the pepper continued to stick to my palate, while leaving a very dry finish. The smoke is consistently thick and creamy with a sharp, peppery finish on the palate. (If you want to clear your sinuses, try retrohaling this cigar; it’s like snorting a shot of wasabi.) This omnipresent piquancy left me a little nonplussed until the cigar reached its midsection. At that point, the smoke mellowed a little, raising the toasty-woody flavors up a level, while some pepperiness remained in its wake. The flavors tended to shift from a distinctive toasty character, to a hint of fruitiness, to sharp woody notes throughout the first half, and remained pretty much consistent through the second half.
If the Gran Toro is an example, experienced cigar smokers will undoubtedly take to the Liga Undercrown Shade selection. As for new and less-experienced smokers, to really appreciate this cigar, they may have to adjust their heads a little. What I’m getting at here is, if you’re used to the sweetness usually associated with many Connecticut wrapper cigars, you’ll find very little of it in here. It’s also worth mentioning that, for me, this cigar was surprisingly heady after I put it down. Suffice it to say, this smoke has a lot of machismo, and I recommend it to cigar smokers who want a full-flavored cigar that doesn’t compromise on strength.
John Pullo‘s Tasting Notes
The construction of this Gran Toro is spot on, still a few veins typical of Ecuadorian CT – it differentiates a bit from true CT shade that way, I guess. A nice blond color typical of CT wrapper. Not oily at all, which in itself is a radical departure from the original Undercrown we’re all used to smoking.
As for its balance, this is no rollercoaster, as there is some consistency throughout the cigar. I think a few of the others mentioned it turning a corner at some point, but I found the Undercrown Shade to deliver consistent dry flavors typical of the Connecticut wrapper, and balanced with some more sense-satisfying notes in the background…like some citrus (Jonathan called it out as lemon peel), some cedar and wood.
The finish between puffs was short, and that’s where pacing yourself can help in experiencing some of the different flavors this cigar has to offer. It’s deceiving – you expect mild flavor because of the wrapper, but this Shade boasts some serious body…be patient and let the flavor of this cigar bloom, especially if you only tread on the milder side of the tracks in terms of strength. Rest it in-between puffs for about a minute or so (it’s not going to go out on you) so you don’t overwhelm yourself with the more medium intensity, and I think you’ll find there is much to savor. To me, the flavors I laid out above really go a long way to disprove the theory that “there’s no flavor in Connecticut wrapper cigars.”
I think my Undercrown Shade cigar review experience can be summed up in 2 words I used before: “radical departure.” As I said, you don’t bring in a guy like Willy Herrera from Titan de Bronze, make him your master blender, and let him get away with just throwing a Connecticut wrapper on the existing blend…to do so would be an injustice to the smoke. So, by retooling the stick from top to bottom, I think what we have here is a Connecticut cigar, as envisioned by someone who doesn’t smoke them. Not that it’s a bad thing – it’s that he’s looking to keep some of the body and richness of the original Undercrown in the mix, but allowing it to be consumed in more of a bite-size manner – meaning by those who maybe don’t have the interest in, or appetite for, a full-bodied cigar. And that’s why I think Undercrown Shade is such a departure for Drew Estate: people who may have wanted to get a sense of the rich fullness inherent in the Liga lines and UC but didn’t want to commit to such a meaty, full smoke, can now enjoy those sensations – not necessarily the same tastes, because the blend is indeed different – but the sensations upon which these particular Drew Estate blends have staked their reputation. In a nutshell, mild-medium smokers don’t have to feel left out anymore, as Willy has brought the experience into their wheelhouse instead of them having to come into his. Goes to show you that Willy “plays well with others.”
Moral of the story: if you like mild but crave more flavor and body, but don’t want to make the jump to stronger cigars…or, if you smoke ‘em strong but want to dial it back for a change of pace, Undercrown Shade is a must-try.